Gamini Fernando: A man of great club loyalty and still a follower | Sunday Observer

Gamini Fernando: A man of great club loyalty and still a follower

23 August, 2020
Gamini Fernando
Gamini Fernando

There have been many greats in rugby from Kandy and one of the stars of yesteryear was Gamini Fernando who is now 60 years with his favourite club Havelock Sports Club that he joined straight form school.

Gamini was one of the finest forwards the country has seen on the rugby field during his playing days and had the unique achievement of being a member of a Clifford Cup wining team on his debut in club rugby, as the captain and later as coach of the club.

Known in the rugby circle as Gamma, he was an outstanding flank forward and had the rare distinction of refereeing a match between the French University and London RF in 1979, the first time two Europeans teams played in Sri Lanka.

Gamma is a product of Trinity College where he excelled in rugby and also played cricket. He played rugby in 1958 with Ken de Joodt as captain and 1959 with Denzil Kobbekaduwa as captain. In 1956, when Trinity introduced junior U-17 rugby, Gamini was in that first team and also played in the following year 1957. He won his rugby Colours in 1959 and at that time only five schools played the game and standards were of high quality.

In 1961 he went down to Colombo along with his friend YC Chang and both turned out for Havelocks. He led the club in 1967 and prematurely hung up his boots in 1969.

Gamma represented Low-Country and All-Ceylon in the All India Tournament in 1966 and 1967 and also played for the country against the English Defence Services team.

He was also a fine team man, a fearless tackler and a gentleman player. As a coach, he always taught the players to enjoy themselves and play good, clean, hard rugby and was the national coach in 1978.

Gamma always instilled the principle that if a player can say after a match: “I had a nice time on the field”, that was enough.

But his biggest disappointment was in 1969 when he had to come to grips after being selected to play in the All India Tournament but was disqualified subsequently on medical grounds, though the Rugby Union doctor LPD Gunawardena passed him fit. The irony of it all was that they took a hooker as his replacement. Gamma now keeps a low profile for health reasons but is still a great follower who was rarely blown or guilty of infringing on the rules and in 1995/96 reached the pinnacle of rugby administration when he became the President of the Sri Lanka Rugby Football Union.

In 1978 he was the national coach and a 22-member squad was selected for the Asiad.

But being a man of self respect and high integrity Gamma withdrew from the tour party over the dropping of a key player without any justification.